Looking to improve the quality of the content on your website? Doing a content audit can shed some light as to the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.
There are many types of content audits, and ways to go about doing one. Ultimately, the process you use will depend on your goals. Why do you want to do an audit and what are you hoping to get out of it? Let me start by sharing what you will get out of the content audit process outlined in this part of the digital marketing audit series. Then, I’ll share the limitations of this process, along with how to overcome them.
How Does This Content Audit Benefit You?
If you’ve done what was shared in the first three parts of this series, you’ll have likely cleaned up a good bit of your content already. But beyond that, what should you do to evaluate and improve your content? Providing the answer to that question is the purpose of this fourth part of the series. Specifically, it is written to help you identify the following aspects of your website content:
- Which content generates the greatest results?
- What content has the potential to generate great results?
- In what areas is content steadily declining in traffic?
- What content is weak or might need improvement?
Then, once everything above is identified, we will take the content audit one step further. We will determine the strengths and weaknesses of each piece of content. Then, you’ll be able to identify what should be improved, and how to do it.
What Does This Content Audit Not Do?
One of the most important steps to any content marketing strategy is to identify the new content you should be creating, outside of what’s already on your website. This will largely be based on your goals, persona development, competitor research and keyword research. In the future we will create a consolidated blog post that explains how to come up with a masterpiece of a content strategy. However, in the meantime, here are some blog posts you may find of value while working on your strategy:
- How to Use SEO Semantics in Your Content Strategy
- Understanding Content Hubs and How to Use Them
- 6 Writing Tactics to Create Killer Content
- 8 Ways to Come Up With New Blog Content Ideas
The strategy for creating completely new content for your website will not be discussed in this blog post. This part of the series is purely evaluating what has already been created, and how to enhance it to yield greater results. Once this audit is complete, it should be reviewed and then next steps should be discussed with your team, based on the goals of the business.
Also, the content audit process below does not go into on-site SEO best practices, related to content. We will share the process for doing an on-site SEO audit in a future post in this series. Assuming that audit process is published when you read this, you should check it out. Make sure the content passes the on-site SEO audit. If so, doing that, along with what’s outline below, your content audit should be very effective.
Identify the Content Generating the Greatest Results
First, we want to see which content is working really well for you. This could include pages, such as your services or product pages. It might including blog posts, cases studies or something else. But ultimately, which content is helping you the most?
But, what does it mean to have great results? There are two main considerations for determining whether a piece of content is getting great results. First, identify the content that drives the most traffic to your website. Second, identify the content that generates the best conversions on your website. Let’s look at those in more detail:
Which Content Generates the Most Traffic?
The 80/20 rule, as with many things, applies to this aspect of the content audit. About 80% of the traffic you acquire will come from about 20% of the content on your website. So, what content is responsible for driving traffic to your website? Here’s how to answer to that question:
Go to Google Analytics, which was discussed in part one of this series. Once you’re there, do the following:
- Log into your account and find the dashboard for the website being reviewed. If you have multiple websites attached to your Google account, you may land, by default, on the results for a different website. So, just make sure you’re looking at the info you need for the website being reviewed.
- In the menu area, make the following clicks: Behavior –> Site Content –> All Pages.
- Next, change the timeframe in the top right of the screen. By default it will show you results for the last week. Instead of this, let’s look at the results for the last 30 to 90 days. If your website doesn’t get much traffic, you might change that timeframe to something greater, just to get better context.
- Now, at the top of the screen, you’ll see an “Add Segment” option. Click on that. Then, uncheck “All Users” and check “Search Traffic.” Click “Apply.”
- You will now be able to see the content that generates the most traffic to your website from search engines, such as Google.
Please note, the process above will only work if Google Analytics is installed on your website. And it will only be able to report on data from the time it’s installed, and going forward. If you were to install Google Analytics today, you wouldn’t be able to pick up on data from yesterday.
Which Content Generates the Most Conversions?
To get this information, you just need to make one simple tweak to your Google Analytics report settings, which you used above. Go back to the segments section and click to add a new segment. Then, uncheck “Search Traffic” and check “Sessions with Conversions.” Then apply that change.
This will show you the number of website visits (sessions) that had a conversion. Before you can track conversions though, you’ll need to make sure this has been set up by your website developer. If this hasn’t already been done, then you’ll want to add this to your list of recommendations from the content audit. Your developer can help ensure your conversions are based on goals that make sense for your business. These could include online purchases, newsletter signups, downloads, contact form submissions, or something else entirely.
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What to Document
Next, you’ll want to export these results into a spreadsheet, which you can do through Google Analytics. Then consolidate the information on your best content into a single spreadsheet. You’ll want columns for each of the following metrics: Page title, URL, visits, largest contentful paint, cumulative layout shift, abandoned visits, time on page, bounce rate, conversions, abandoned conversions, user intent, user intent met, readability and notes.
There are a number of tools you can use to help you get the information for each of those metrics. Below is what we use, but you might find alternative solutions:
- Google Analytics: Top URLs, visits, time on page, bounce rate, conversions
- Web.Dev: Largest contentful paint, cumulative layout shift and estimated actual visits. To find the estimated actual visits, you’ll need the following information:
- Actual visits (from Google Analytics)
- Cumulative layout shift, to see how many seconds it takes your web page to load (from web.dev) – You can see an example of this in the accompanying screenshot.
- The percentage of website visitors that will statistically stay on your website, based on the load time of the page.
- 1 second: Multiply your total visits by .98
- 2 seconds: Multiply your total visits by .90
- 3 seconds: Multiply your total visits by .73
- 4 seconds: Multiply your total visits by .6
- 5 seconds: Multiply your total visits by .4
- More than five seconds: Remove another 10% for every additional second of load time.
(The figures above are based on articles by Hosting Manual and What’s New in Publishing)
Example: Let’s say your web page has 1,000 visits and takes four seconds to load. You’ll want to multiply 1,000 x .6. Your total estimated actual visits is 600.
- Manually Done: Title, missed conversions, user intent, user intent met, notes. These metrics will be discussed in more detail later.
Identify the Content With Potential to Generate Great Results
It may be that you have some content which is almost great at generating traffic, but just isn’t quite there yet. We want to identify that content, and see if we can enhance it. Although it’s not a free tool, our go-to resource for identifying promising content is SEMrush. There are other tools you can use for this as well, but here’s how we use SEMrush for this portion of the content audit:
- Go to the SEMrush website and run a test on your domain.
- Select the option to view “Organic Research” if this hasn’t already been selected by default.
- You’ll now see a table of results when you scroll down a little. Just above that table, there will be some tabs. Click on the “Pages” tab.
- Now you will see a list of every URL SEMrush has identified as ranking in the top 100 results of Google. There is even one column labeled keywords. This shows the number of keywords for which the URL is being displayed. Click the number of keywords, next to each URL to get more info on this. (Please view the screenshot for an example of how this is displayed, once you click the keyword number.)
In this example, you’ll see Joshua Lyons Marketing is almost ranking really well for a blog post titled How to Become an Influencer. We currently rank at the bottom of the first page for a couple keywords. These two keywords are searched about 10,500 times each month. Too bad we’re at the very bottom of the page. But, if we can move up to the top of the page, we would likely get significantly more traffic to our website, because of those pages. They definitely have high traffic potential.
What to Document
Use the process outlined above to identify the URLs that are almost ranking at the top of Google, for keywords with high search volume. Make a list of each of these pages. Based on the size of your website, this may or may not be a lot of pages. And depending on the size of your marketing team, I’d suggest identifying either the top 20 or the top 50 URLs to focus on improving. Also, write down the keyword that almost ranks well, the position for which your URL ranks, and the search volume for that keyword.
Let’s use the screenshot above as an example. In the “Keyword” column of our spreadsheet, we would write “how to become an influencer.” Then, in the “Position” column, we would write “9.” In the “Search Volume” column, we would write “8,100.” Follow this same process for your potential pages and keywords.
You’ll also want columns for each of the following metrics: Page title, URL, potential traffic, largest contentful paint, cumulative layout shift, time on page, bounce rate, user intent, user intent met, readability and notes.
I’d suggest putting all the information for your potentially great content in a new tab, within your spreadsheet. So, one tab shows the info on your URLs with the greatest results. Then the next tab shows information on your potentially great URLs.
You’ve already read how to get some of the info needed for the metrics above. But, there is some new info you’ll need to acquire for this portion of the content audit. Here’s how to get it:
- SEMrush: Page URL, keyword, position, and search volume
- Manually done: Potential traffic – This is an estimation. Find this by calculating what your traffic would be if you were in position #1. That’s the ultimate keyword ranking goal. Simply multiply the search volume by the appropriate percentage below, to see what the estimated (potential) traffic would be. If you want a sliding scale of what the traffic could be, based on different positions, you could do that too. The information below is based on an article by Backlinko.
(Use the following formula to calculate estimated traffic)
- #1 Position: 31.73%
- #2 Position: 24.71%
- #3 Position: 18.66%
- #4 Position: 13.60%
- #5 Position: 9.51%
- #6 Position: 6.23%
- #7 Position: 4.15%
- #8 Position: 3.12 %
- #9 Position: 2.97%
- #10 Position: 3.09%
Using our example from above, we rank on the bottom of the first page of Google for the keyword “how to become an influencer.” That keyword phrase is searched 8,100 times per month. Based on the data above, position #1 gets 31.73% of the clicks. Here’s our calculation for this keyword: 8,100 (search volume) x .3173 (percentage of clicks) = 2,570 (potential traffic). This means our potential traffic for this keyword is 2,570.
Identify the Content That’s Steadily Declining in Traffic
Knowing the content that generates the best results is great. But, what if this content is becoming less and less effective? If you look at the traffic generated over the last 30 days, for a particular URL, it may look great. But when compared to a few months ago, is it improving or is it declining?
You’ll want to identify the URLs that are showing a decline in traffic. This way, you can take measures to bring the traffic back up, if possible. Here’s how you can find out the URLs that are becoming less effective over time:
- Remember the process you took to identify the pages with the greatest results? Go back to Google Analytics and repeat that same process.
- Now, you should have a list of all the pages, ranked by most pageviews from search traffic. Next, change the time frame to just look at the last 3o days.
- Before you close the calendar, you’ll notice a little checkbox option with the label “Compare to.” Click that checkbox.
- By default, the comparison will be for the previous period. So, if you’re looking at the last 3o days, it will compare the results from the previous 30 days before that. But, let’s change this setting. Go to the dropdown and change it from “Previous period” to “Custom.”
- You’ll now have two date ranges. The first is for the last 30 days. But for the second, go back a few months, so you’re comparing results quarter-over-quarter. You can check out the accompanying screenshot, to see an example of this.
- Now, click “Apply” and review the updated report.
What to Document
The updated report will show details about the search traffic acquired for each of your pages. It will also show a percentage in change from one period to the next. For example, take a look at the screenshot I just shared. You’ll see our blog post on “How to Do Integrated Marketing Communications” increased by 15.54% quarter-over-quarter. This is good. This is by far our most popular page on the website, and it’s only becoming more popular.
Now, run the same type of report on your own website.
Next, identify any page that shows a negative change in traffic. Make a list of those URLs so they can be evaluated. Ultimately, you’ll want to implement a plan to reverse the decline of those pages.
Add this information to a third tab, within your spreadsheet. This third tab just shows information on your declining URLs. For the metrics to be reviewed, you’ll want to include the page title, URL, visits, change in visits from quarter-over-quarter, largest contentful paint, cumulative layout shift, abandoned visits, time on page, bounce rate, conversions, abandoned conversions, user intent, user intent met, readability and notes.
Again, we’ll go over the user intent, user intent met, and notes, a little bit later.
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Identify Content That’s Weak or Might Need Improvement
Go ahead and make a new tab in your spreadsheet. You could call this “Weak or Might Need Improvement.”
Up to this point, we’ve mostly relied on tools, such as Google Analytics, SEMrush, etc. But, in this portion of the audit, you’ll focus on your understanding of your business, your services, your target audience, and your knowledge of what type of content they need.
What to Look For
- Make a list of every product or service you offer. For example, we would list search engine optimization, web design, web development, marketing planning, digital marketing audits, etc. You get the idea. Write down what’s applicable to your own business.
- Next, check your website to see if you have a page dedicated to each of those offerings. If you simply mention them on a single page, then you’re missing out. When a prospective client or customer visits your website to learn more about what you have to offer, they most likely want to read more than a blurb. In your spreadsheet, write down a tentative title for the page that’s missing, and should be created.
- If you do have page for each product or service, great! Add it to the spreadsheet, on the same tab, but in a different table. So, in one section of the sheet you have a list of pages that need to be created. Then, in a different section, you have a list of service or product pages that do exist. Later, we’ll go through the process for identifying whether or not they need improvement.
- Do you have an FAQ page? If so, review each FAQ and see if it deserves its own dedicated page. We created an FAQ page about SEO. Then, each FAQ links to a completely different page that answers the question in much greater detail. Feel free to check it out and see if that would work as a good template for you. If it does, for which FAQs would you create a page? Write these topics down, along with the services or products pages that need to be created.
What to Document
As with the other sections of the content audit, there are some specific metrics we’ll want to take a look at. For the content that hasn’t been created yet, such as new service and product pages, you’ll want the following columns in your spreadsheet:
- Tentative Page Title: What do you think the title of each newly created page should be?
- Keyword Focus: If someone were doing a google search, and wanting to find this page, what would you expect them to type as their search query?
- Ideal Word Count: Based on the search query you entered in the last point, how many words should your content be, in order to rank on the first page of Google? You can use SEMScoop to get an idea of how to answer that.
- User Intent: The website visitor who lands on this page has a need. That’s why they did a Google search. What do you need to share on your new page in order to 100% completely fulfill the need of your website visitor? Write down your answer. Also, go back to the other tabs in your spreadsheet. Under the column heading of “User Intent,” write down what you believe the user is intending to find on the page. This doesn’t mean it’s what they will find. It’s simply what you believe they want to find. What will satisfy their need?
For the content that already has a dedicated page, you’ll want to include the title, URL, keyword focus, word count, target word count, visits, largest contentful paint, cumulative layout shift, abandoned visits, time on page, bounce rate, conversions, abandoned conversions, user intent, user intent met, readability and notes. We’ll take a closer look at these pages in a moment, to identify whether or not they need improvement.
What to Do Now That the Content Has Been Identified?
You’ve now identified every page that needs to be reviewed, for the purposes of this content audit. Technically, you could stop here. You have audited your content. You know what’s getting great results, what could get great results, what’s declining and what content is [or might be] weak. But, what’s the point in having this information if you don’t make a plan to to actually use it. So, that’s what this last section of the audit is for. Evaluate each portion of the audit to come up with action steps.
For each page under review, or needing to be created, ask yourself the following question: “If I were visiting this page, and were looking for a need to be met, what would that be?” And more specifically, “does this page meet the intent of my visit, or will I need to go somewhere else to be satisfied?”
Under the “User Intent” column, write down what needs to be done in order to fully satisfy the need of the website visitor, who’s visiting that page. You’ll do this for each page identified for your content audit.
User Intent Met
Based on what you wrote under the user intent column, and after having reviewed the page, would you say the user intent is met for the vast majority of all visitors who land on that page? If not, write “No” in this column and explain what needs to be done to resolve this, in the notes column. If yes, then write “Yes.” Repeat this step for each page that has this column heading.
Readability (Grade Level)
Test each page with the Hemingway Editor. The goal for each page, unless there is a very good reason to the contrary, is to have a reading grade level of nine or lower. The more challenging a piece of content is to read, the less likely the website visitor will actually value it. And this makes it more challenging to satisfy user intent. For each section of this audit that has written content you’re evaluating, include a column for readability. Then, indicate the grade level of the content. If the grade level is higher than nine, make a note to discuss resolving this.
A review of the page title will come into play during the on-site SEO audit. However, for now, this is just used so you can clearly see what page is being reviewed.
This metric is primarily used for benchmarking. Other than to always work on increasing visits, there isn’t an action-step based on this one metric alone. However, there are action-steps for columns related to this one. The “Abandoned Visits” column is an example of this.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Test each URL in your content audit with web.dev. Then, find the CPL score for each page. You can see in the accompanying screenshot an example of what to look for. In the example, the load time for the page tested is 1.9 seconds. Write down the LCP for each of your pages.
You’ll want to ask your website developer to speed up any pages that don’t load as quickly as you would like. If you need help with this, let us know. This is something our agency does for clients on a regular basis and we would be happy to provide you an estimated cost for this.
This is a critical step for improving the conversion rate of your website visitors. In the notes section, make a comment for any page that needs to be sped up.
Cumulative Layout Shift
This is a metric that measures how much the content on a page will shift, as it loads. When a website visitor lands on a page, and then various elements load after they’ve started reading the content, this can be very distracting. It can result in a poor user experience and lead to them abandoning your website. You’ll want to make a point to minimize this issue with your content.
Test each page and ensure it passes the test, when analyzed on web.dev. The “Cumulative Layout Shift” score is directly next to the “Largest Contetnful Paint” score. If there is a poor score in this area, your website developer should be able to resolve it for you.
The Abandoned Visits column shows an estimation of how many people are actually viewing your website content. Once you’ve eliminated the appropriate percentage of visits that bounced, due to slow load time, you’re left with this number. You’ll want to write down this number for each page.
For slow pages, statistically, improving the page load time can dramatically improve the number of estimated actual visits.
Time on Page
According to an article by Klipfolio, the average time spent on a web page is 62 seconds. How does your website compare? Write down the average load time for each of your pages and see if there are any red flags. For example, if your most important pages have an average dwell time of just a few seconds, that would be very concerning. If the same page also has a long load time, that may be the reason for the short time on page. So, making that one speed edit may be enough to resolve the issue.
Review each page that has a concerning dwell time, then write down your suggestions as to how you might be able to improve that, in the notes section.
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Part two of this series goes into some detail on both the dwell time (time on page) metric and the bounce rate. Regarding the bounce rate, there isn’t a good general rule of thumb for what you should expect. A normal bounce rate will differ from industry to industry and based on the type of the website. However, for a good article about bounce rates and what to expect based on different factors, take a look at Bounce Rate Benchmarks: What’s a Good Bounce Rate, Anyway? Use that article to determine whether or not your bounce rates are appropriate. Then, for any URL in your content audit with this column, write down the bounce rate.
For the pages that have a concerning bounce rate, take a look at them. See if you can identify why the bounce rate is high. In the notes section, write down what you think should be done to resolve the issue.
For each URL in your audit that has this column, be sure to write down the number of conversions being produced. Like the “visits” metric, this is more for benchmarking. However, it directly impacts the next metric.
As with the visits, the real number of conversions is likely lower than it could be, if the page load time isn’t as fast as it should be. Use the calculations provided above, when determining adjusted visits based on largest contentful paint, to see how many conversions you could likely get. For example, if your web page typically generates 60 conversions, but it takes four seconds to load, then you’re statistically missing out on 40% of your potential conversions. You could potentially increase your conversions by 40%, by speeding up your website. So, instead of acquiring 60 conversions, you could acquire 100 conversions. That would represent 40 abandoned conversions.
Write down the abandoned conversions for each page. Review the results, and if you feel like you really are missing out on conversions, then make a note (in the notes section) to have that investigated and resolved.
This metric only applies to the content that doesn’t generate great results, but has potential. This is a benchmark metric and there’s nothing you need to do with it for the purposes of this audit. However, it does impact the “potential traffic” metric.
For the page that almost ranks well on Google, what is the keyword for which the URL has potential? This column heading only appears in the section of your report that focuses on pages with potential. Don’t confuse it with the “Keyword Focus” metric. That will be described next. Write down the highest value keyword for each URL in this.
When reviewing your content that needs to be created, such as services and products pages, what is the keyword focus to be applied? When someone is looking for this page, what are they most likely to put into a Google search query? You can certainly do some keyword research to figure this out in a scientifc way. But for now, you can just write down your gut feeling.
For the pages that have a good search volume, and the potential to rank well, write down the search volume for the keyword that’s almost ranking well. Do this for each page that has this header.
Using the estimated traffic by position formula, provided in this blog post, estimate how much traffic your web page would get, if it ranked in the first position for the identified keyword. For example, let’s imagine you rank #10 on the first page of Google for a high value keyword. Let’s pretend this keyword is searched 10,000 per month. Based on the formula provided, if you rank #1, you would statistically get 31.73% of the clicks from people who use that search query. 10,000 x 31.73% is 3,173 visits. That’s a lot more website traffic than you’re currently getting from that keyword.
Write down the potential traffic for each keyword. Then, review the page that’s almost ranking very well. Identify opportunities to improve your rankings for that page. In the notes section, write down your recommendations on how to improve the ranking for that page. Repeat this for each page that has great potential.
Change in Visits
In the section of your content audit that focuses on declining rankings, write down the percentage of change. For example, if you compare your traffic for a specific page in July versus last April, and it dropped in traffic by 21%, write that down in this column. Do this for each page. Then, visit each page and see how you can improve it. If your page previously brought in more traffic, you may be able to adjust it so it continues to bring in more traffic.
In the notes section of the audit, write down your recommendations on how to resolve the issue of decreasing traffic.
This metric only shows up in the portion of the content audit that focuses on your existing services or products pages. For each of these pages, write down the number of words on the page. For example, if you searched for “seo pensacola fl” you would find our website ranked at the top of the organic search results. The page that’s ranking is 3,373 words long. That’s the word count.
In the “Weak and Clearly Needs Improvement” section of your audit, write down the word count for each of your pages.
Target Word Count
Now, use a tool like SEMScoop and check the average word count for the pages that rank on the first page for the keyword focus you are wanting to rank for. If you don’t have access to a tool like SEMScoop, you can simply go to each of the top 10 pages in the search results, and manually check to see how many words are on each page. Then, use those numbers to get the average word count.
Write down the average word count for each of your existing service or products pages, for which you want to rank well. Going back to our last example, if we test the keyword “seo pensacola fl” we see the average word count for the top 10 pages in Google is 1,431.
Now, compare your existing word count to the target word count. Are your competitors writing significantly more helpful (this usually means longer non-fluff pieces) content? Identify this for each of the pages in this portion of your audit. For any page that falls short of the target word count, point that out in your notes section. The action item should be to increase the length of those pages and to make them more helpful to the user.
For those pages that do have average, or better than average, word counts, you can remove those from your content audit. They are fine. However, for any pages that are short on content, in comparison to the top pages, leave those in your report. They are considered weak pages, and should be improved. But there’s one factor to consider. For each of these pages, is the user intent met? Even if the word count is good, if the user intent isn’t met, then the page needs to be improved.
Content Audit Notes
In case you haven’t noticed it, your notes section is where you identify needs for improvement. Make sure any content that’s sub par has been pointed out in this section. If it needs to be addressed with your team, and assigned to someone for improvement, then mention it here. Once you’re finished, take all your notes and create a clear plan of action for your team to review and for action-steps to be assigned.
Final Thoughts Regarding Your Content Audit
At the beginning of this blog post, I pointed out that there are many ways to do an audit. This audit just focuses on reviewing your existing content, and doesn’t go into the SEO aspects of an audit. However, depending on the quality of your content, you might have already identified plenty to work on. This is especially true if you create a lot of content and haven’t done a content audit in a long time.
Here’s the next step. Take your notes and have your team clean up the content on your website. Again, if you need help, let us know. Then, once this is complete, come back and read our blog post on how to audit your on-site SEO. Just click this link to view all the blog posts in this series, and if it’s published by the time you come back, you’ll see it. It will be part #7 of this series.
After completing the action steps from this audit, and also from the on-site SEO audit, you should have some really great content, and a good plan on how to make it even better.
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As the founder of Joshua Lyons Marketing, Josh Lyons primarily focuses on business development. He has studied and practiced marketing since 2008 and launched his first company (a marketing agency in Pensacola, Florida) in 2015. When he's not writing blog posts, recording podcasts or consulting, he enjoys spending time with family and friends. He loves listening to audiobooks and checking out different coffee shops. He also enjoys fire juggling, amigurumi, travel and swing dancing; which is how he met his wife.